Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (2003) s08e10 Episode Script

Vaccinations

Hi, I'm Penn, and this is my partner, Teller.
You may have heard vaccination causes autism in one out of 110 children.
Fuck that.
Total bullshit.
It doesn't.
But let's imagine it does.
We'll compare 2 groups of children.
Teller's group gets no vaccinations.
My group does.
I'll use this plexiglas to represent the vaccinations.
Oh, oh, oh.
That's bad.
My vaccination wall knocked one of the children out of line.
That's our one in 110 with autism.
In the 1920s, before the diphtheria vaccination was common, there were 13 to 15,000 deaths a year from that disease.
If you got it, your chances of dying were about 40%.
In 1952, just before the salk vaccine became common, there were about 58,000 cases of polio.
If you got unlucky, you might end up permanently disabled, or dead.
Meningitis, Hepatitis A and B, flu, mumps, whooping cough, pneumonia, rotavirus, rubella, smallpox, tetanus, chicken pox.
Chicken pox.
We have vaccinations against all of them.
Which side do you want your child to stand on? So even if vaccination did cause autism-- which it fucking doesn't! Anti-vaccination would still be bullshit.
"Vaccinations" PENN: Vaccinations.
[child crying] Kids love 'em.
And why not? Over the past 70 years, vaccines have nearly wiped smallpox, polio, measles and diphtheria off the face of the planet, saving countless lives in the process.
But today, thanks in part to a shockingly fucked up, absolutely wrong-- possibly criminal? Study falsely linking vaccines to a skyrocketing rate of autism, high-profile celebrities are joining legions of concerned parents in a rapidly-growing anti-vaccination movement.
I do think they're possibly dangerous.
I believe that vaccines do cause autism.
Right now, my plans are to never vaccinate my child.
PENN: Is there really something to worry about? Tonight, we're gonna find out-- or at least we're gonna give it a shot-- with the help of this pediatrician with sexy animal on animal action wallpaper We're showing no respect to the families of kids with autism.
PENN: This woman who claims vaccines are poison The only safe vaccine is one that's not given.
PENN: The father of an autistic child It really does turn your life upside down to have a child diagnosed with autism.
PENN: And this anti-vaccination fanatic, who has some creative ideas on how to look at this issue.
You gotta look at the big picture and then break it down to the small picture.
Or vice versa, you can go small and then go big.
But there's gotta be the big, you gotta come full circle with this.
Vaccination is supported by scientists, doctors, and health officials.
It's opposed mostly by self-righteous celebrities, Playboy models, grieving parents, and wack-jobs.
Science has done its best to win the fight with serious studies and real data and you know, uh, saving lives.
But somehow the wack-job side is getting some attraction.
So we think, to level the playing field, it's time for the pro-vaccination side to bring in some C-level, self-righteous, celebrity, talking head nut jobs.
And we're just the C-level, self-righteous, celebrity, talking head nut jobs to do it! Fuck, yeah! PENN: This whole vaccination controversy got started back in 1998, when "the Lancet," a prestigious British medical journal, published what turned out to be a shockingly fucked up, absolutely wrong-- possibly criminal? Study falsely suggesting a possible link between the measles vaccine and autism.
Almost overnight, England's vaccination rates dropped by double-digits.
The panic quickly spread to the U.
S.
, and the anti-vaccination movement took off.
I started practicing pediatrics in 1979 and I didn't see kids with autism.
My name is Dr.
Jay Gordon.
I've been a pediatrician in private practice for 30 years.
Any of my colleagues who've been practicing for 20, 25, 30 years will tell you exactly the same thing.
There's been a big change.
There's much, much more autism.
PENN: Wow.
That's scary.
In fact, according to the CDC, since 1980, the rate of autism among children has skyrocketed from one in 10,000 children to one in 110.
To help us understand this issue, we need to meet someone with personal experience.
My name is Ken Reibel and I'm a freelance business writer.
PENN: Ken's on his way to pick up his son Christopher from school.
He knows firsthand what it's like to raise a child with autism.
Christopher was diagnosed when he was three.
Early on, he was fascinated by different shapes.
You know, he would point at a shape and say, "parallelogram," you know, rhombus, and we thought, wow, we've got a little genius on our hands.
PENN: But then a day care worker familiar with autism suggested there might be a problem.
And there was.
Tests showed Chris was autistic.
Suddenly, this just comes out of the blue.
And we didn't understand it.
I mean, it just, it made no sense, you know, so, yeah, you go through a period, I think, of shock at first.
You have a good day? PENN: So, Ken, as a parent, do you believe there's a link between vaccines and autism? The preponderance of the evidence shows no association between vaccines and autism.
PENN: But not every parent agrees.
For parents that know what's in a vaccine and they know the risks, and they've looked into it, and they go ahead and vaccinate, to me it's child abuse.
My name is Wendy Callahan, I'm the co-director of Vaccination Liberation.
PENN: When Wendy's son Chase was a baby, he suffered serious health problems that she firmly believes were caused by vaccinations.
You can't poison yourself into health.
You can't.
And that's what these are! PENN: Vaccines? Poison? That's a pretty strong statement.
But in one sense, it's true.
Most vaccines are made from weakened versions of the disease they're designed to protect you from.
You get an injection, your body reacts as if you had the disease and creates the antibodies that kill the virus.
So now your body's ready if you catch the full blown disease.
Wendy makes many inaccurate claims like this on her website; claims that have influenced thousands of people to avoid vaccines, like this guy.
My name is Carl Buz, and I'm a husband and a father of just an average American family.
Before 1945, or whenever, I'm not sure about the date, don't quote me, vaccines started.
We didn't have cancer.
Now you got cancer in dogs.
PENN: Well, you know what we heard, Carl? Don't quote us, but since 1999, some vaccines make people fly under their own power.
I think we still have cancer in dogs though.
Now, Wendy, you say you have evidence to back up your claims? This is a page right from the CDC.
PENN: Fuck! Their manual must be huge! These are the ingredients that are actually in vaccines-- Aluminum hydroxide, brilliant green dye, DNA, egg protein, calf skin, chick embryo, mouse brain, formaldehyde.
PENN: Wait a minute.
Back up.
Did she say "mouse brain?" - Mouse brain.
PENN: Excellent.
Formaldehyde.
These ingredients don't belong in a vaccine.
They belong in a Satanic ritual.
Fuck her.
We've got that same page and ours is much bigger.
We're going to put up these giant Post-it notes on all the points where Wendy is fucking up.
Formaldehyde-- Ugh.
But it stops the virus from reproducing and making you really sick.
Get that up there, where it belongs.
Aluminum hydroxide and mouse brain.
Eek.
Mouse brain! They stimulate antibody levels.
Oh, and you're worried about aluminum? It's the most common metal found in nature and you can literally swallow a thousand times more in a single antacid tablet.
Fucking scissors lift! Doesn't go high enough.
[sighs] Bring in the fire truck! Back, bring it in! Bring in the fire truck.
[truck beeping] PENN: So, Wendy, which ingredient bothers you most of all? Well, I think the mercury is probably the most dangerous.
PENN: Yes, many childhood vaccines used to contain mercury in the form of a preservative called thimerosal.
In 1999, it was taken out of most vaccines as a precautionary measure.
I guess somebody forgot to tell Wendy.
By the way, if mercury were causing autism, you'd expect autism rates to drop after they took it out of vaccines.
But they haven't.
Oops.
As a physician, as a scientist, as a researcher, and as a parent I can tell you that vaccines do not cause autism.
Hi, I'm Max Wiznitzer, I'm a child neurologist at Rainbow Babies' and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.
PENN: Dr.
Wiznitzer specializes in children with autism and sees over 200 children a month in his clinical practice.
At the request of the Department of Health and Human Services, he investigated claims of a vaccine-autism connection, and concluded there was no credible evidence of any link.
His take on that mercury claim? The most you might find some trace mercury from the manufacturing process.
Eating a tuna fish sandwich puts you at greater risk for exposure to mercury.
PENN: Fuck them asshole fish! The average tuna fish sandwich contains 28 micrograms of mercury.
9 times what the typical infant gets from all his vaccinations combined.
That info is courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.
If Wendy had room to print out a second giant page, she might have seen that.
Ah, there's that doctor from the top of the show.
Dr.
Gordon, do you agree vaccines are safe? Children should not be vaccinated.
This is very much at odds with the mainstream medical point of view, which says that there's no connection between vaccines and autism.
I think that that is a flat out lie.
PENN: Well, we can't all be Jonas Salk.
I have seen children face-to-face who were developing normally until they got shots.
At least a few times, it happened in my office where very shortly after they received a vaccine they developed symptoms of autism and then became autistic.
If two things occur one after the other, it doesn't mean one caused the other.
There is the natural tendency in humans that if something happens to an individual, you always look at what immediately preceded it to try to say, does this explain why it happened? [rings bell] If 2 things occur one after the other, it doesn't mean one caused the other.
There is a natural tendency in humans that if something happens, you always look at what immediately preceded it to explain why it happened.
[chuckles] Correlation is not causation.
PENN: Meanwhile, back at the Reibel household, the family is sitting down for dinner.
- Ready? - What do you say? "Monsters versus aliens.
" "Monsters versus aliens.
" PENN: If it's not vaccines, what is responsible for autism suddenly affecting one in 110 children? I mean, there is an epidemic of autism, isn't there? When people look at the rise in autism, what they're really looking at is the rise in diagnosis.
Autism's always been with us.
It's just it was either called something else, childhood schizophrenia, for instance.
It could have been called childhood psychosis.
In the case of something like Asperger's, which is your higher functioning forms, it could just be the weird kid in class.
PENN: Before 1994, to be diagnosed as autistic, a child had to have a low I.
Q.
and be deeply withdrawn and non-verbal.
But then researchers adopted the much broader definition, "Autism Spectrum Disorder," or ASD, and suddenly many children could technically be classified as "autistic.
" We changed the definition to include more children and now, we act surprised that more children are included.
Oops.
If you look at other possible reasons why the numbers may be rising, it also includes the fact that because we have increased awareness, we're identifying individuals at a younger age.
So you have to basically factor all these things into place before you can actually say whether it is a true rise in the incidence, which is the number of new cases per year.
PENN: Let's go back to Bugnutty crazy world and assume you guys are right and vaccinations really are dangerous.
Why, then, are doctors still recommending vaccines? The backbone of the pharmaceutical company are vaccines, because it's not just in America.
Those same companies are shipping vaccines all over the world.
We ship millions of vials of it to Africa, and look, AIDS is rampant in Africa.
PENN: And gnus.
There are fucking gnus all over the plains of Africa.
It's a plague of gnus! Fucking vaccines.
Vaccines traditionally have been sort of the weak sister in the drug industry.
Arthur Allen, author, "Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Life Saver.
" PENN: Sorry to interrupt your Cinco de Mayo party, but we need answers.
And a little guacamole, por favor.
It's hard to make a lot of money on a vaccine, especially a pediatric vaccine.
Because the idea of pediatric vaccines is they're given once or twice or three times, it may be a booster, so maybe 4 times and that's it.
Um, whereas if you're giving somebody an anti-depressant or you're giving them, you know, a drug against cholesterol, they take it every day for 20 years.
I mean, the difference is pretty clear.
PENN: Worldwide, revenues from vaccines make up a measly 2% of the overall pharmaceutical market.
Get it? Measly? But the anti-vaccination crew does have one thing right.
There is a profit motive driving this vaccination debate.
But it's driving their side.
Call it the autism miracle cure industry.
People offering anything from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, chelation, uh, you know, ionic foot massage.
Magnetic clay baths.
I think somebody counted up over 200 alternative therapies for autism.
PENN: Not one of which has ever been proven to make even a dent in alleviating autism, despite the billions of dollars desperate parents have flushed down the toilet.
Attention, citizens! Attention, citizens! In the evaluation of all bullshit, it is comforting to remember Hanlon's razor: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
" This sentiment has surfaced in all nations and all ages.
My favorite is the classic English: "Cock-up before conspiracy.
" Teller prefers Napoleon's version: "Voulez vous couchez avec moi, ce soir?" Carry on, citizens.
PENN: So the alternative therapies don't do dick.
But we know why parents keep trying.
People who have children with autism, especially severe autism, you know, have very difficult lives.
And so here's somebody offering you the cause and what they claim is treatment, and a way out of it.
And so it's a very attractive package for these people and I can totally understand that.
PENN: Carl doesn't have an autistic child, but he's convinced that vaccines are part of a global medical conspiracy to keep us sick.
Follow the money.
Follow the money.
Because that's what motivates these people.
I believe that doctors don't become doctors to heal people.
I think they become doctors to make money.
I don't care what they say.
That's the way I feel about it.
PENN: So doctors are keeping us sick on purpose? How could they pull that off without us finding out? There's a lot going on.
Um, and we're being distracted.
Football, basketball, American Music Awards.
PENN: We knew the American Music Awards were a pharmaceutical plot.
My face goes numb when I watch it.
You name it, everything's a distraction to the truth.
PENN: Careful, Carl, your doctor might get so pissed at you spilling the truth that he gives you that shot that turns you gay.
Where the hell are you people getting your information? Thank God for the Internet.
Thank God for the Internet.
People say, "Oh, you got that on the Internet, that must be conspiracy stuff.
" No, it's just knowledge.
Anyone can claim anything on the Internet.
This would not have happened 30 years ago, 40 years ago, 50 years ago where you'd have to go to the library and do your research.
PENN: Even our friend Ken Reibel got sucked in.
The day his son was diagnosed with autism, he jumped on the web, saw sites like Wendy's, and immediately suspected vaccines had caused his son's condition.
I printed everything out and I went down to see my general practitioner.
I said, ok, what's going on here? Can you explain this? And he did.
He took the time to explain it to me and why this was nonsense, and I just never looked back.
I mean, there's a reason why there are specialists in medicine and in science who, you know, who we trust.
I generally trust people who don't have an axe to grind but who are steeped in knowledge about a subject.
PENN: People like Wendy.
Herpes.
You thought you got that from kissing? No, it's compliments of your polio vaccine.
The anti-vaccine side that they like to-- I say that they that they like to cloak themselves in the respectability of science, you know, uh, but, without really subjecting themselves to the harsh questioning that the scientists get.
What I'm concerned about is that they're closed-minded.
They refuse to look at the facts as they're generated, or to look at the weaknesses of the studies that they quote.
Because they've already fixed in their mind already what they perceive to be the truth and then go out to look for the documentation to support it.
That's not the scientific method.
PENN: It was shocking disregard for that scientific method that allowed "the Lancet" to publish the 1998 study that started this whole controversy in the first place.
And in early 2010, "the Lancet" was forced to retract that study, after a British medical panel found its main author, Dr.
Andrew Wakefield, guilty of gross misconduct.
It turns out that Wakefield was being paid by a law firm that was looking to sue the manufacturer of the measles vaccine, and because of that, claimed results that he didn't actually get.
Along the way, Wakefield performed unnecessary and invasive tests on children without proper approval.
He even joked about paying children money to take blood tests at a birthday party.
[laughter] PENN: And people have stopped vaccinating their children because of this asshole's shockingly fucked up, absolutely wrong-- possibly criminal?--study.
The editor of "the Lancet" said, "It was utterly clear, without any ambiguity at all, "that the statements in the paper were utterly false.
I feel I was deceived.
" The evidence that started the whole vaccines and autism thing is absolutely, no fucking question, false.
End of discussion, right? No! Well, Jenny McCarthy has taken up the cause.
PENN: That's right.
Against all fucking evidence and reason, Wakefield has the support of former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy, who has become the preeminent celebrity spokesperson for the anti-vaccination movement.
Jenny said her son Evan became autistic after getting the MMR vaccine in 2005.
She also heavily endorses injecting botox into your face.
One of the more potent toxins known to man.
So, in Jennyworld, botox good.
Vaccines bad.
Today I am a mom of a child who had autism, who has a voice that is willing to shake the ground of those responsible until all of our children are safe from harm.
[cheers and applause] PENN: You heard her say "had autism.
" Jenny says he's well now.
She says he took probiotics, threw up and pooped out a bunch of yeast and now he's fine.
She's been called the face of mothers with autism.
And I think that what she does is she gives a voice to the tens of thousands of parents who haven't been listened to.
PENN: Boy, Dr.
Gordon sure likes Jenny McCarthy.
I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact he's her pediatrician.
No bullshit.
Dr.
Gordon's support has helped to legitimize McCarthy's amazing transformation from Playboy model to public health expert.
That's given her a platform from which to broadcast her anti-vaccination scare tactics, and usher in a new kind of McCarthyism.
There's a lot a people out there that say, "Well, I'll leave that up to the medical establishment.
" They know best.
They wear the white coat.
They've been to school.
They have a diploma on their wall.
They have a license to do this.
Well, I have a license to drive.
Right? I have a license to get married.
I have a license to do all kind a stuff.
But that doesn't mean that I'm an expert at it.
PENN: We are so grateful we're not married to you and riding in your car.
Hang on, Teller.
I've got this one.
They want crazy talk? Oh, I can give 'em crazy talk.
The fucking feds want gitmo going strong and wars overseas for oil money and bailouts.
So Obama's gonna keep grabbing federal power, even more so than George W.
Bush.
It's also clear from George Clooney that liberalism gets more virulent with every generation.
So the Freemasons need to draft all the liberals into the peace corps so they can preach their Stalinist lies.
Crazy enough for ya? Oh, ho, I'm not done.
What about the fucking gnus? You gotta follow the money.
Soon, vaccines will be able to turn water into gasoline.
It's all on the Internet.
Follow the money.
PENN: Okay, Dr.
Gordon, just so we're clear.
You're perfectly fine with Jenny McCarthy scaring people off from vaccines, even though you know that not vaccinating children is just inviting new epidemics that could make any of us sick or dead? I have a lot of families in my practice who have either given no vaccines to their children or almost no vaccines.
And I support that decision.
And I take responsibility for supporting that decision.
And I don't think that we're adversely affecting the health of the American public.
PENN: We're glad you take responsibility, and we hope you get everything you have coming to you.
- And who are you? - Jacob.
Jacob who? When you're looking for information about autism, I always tell the families who come to my office that they need to become informed consumers.
PENN: Even Carl's on board with that.
All I want people to do is to do the research.
And, no, I'm not some fanatical crazy nut, hardcore down the line.
If you want to vaccinate your kids, fine.
But just do the research yourself.
PENN: Well, we are fanatical crazy nuts, and hardcore down the line, and we are doing the research and coming up with exactly the opposite conclusion.
How about you, Wendy? Are you willing to learn the truth about vaccinations? Engage me, help me.
Help me learn the better way.
Make me wrong, please.
PENN: If only you meant that.
I would hope that this thing ends 'cause it's just a terrible distraction.
There's no reason to be afraid of vaccinating your child.
Listen to your pediatrician.
He has the knowledge and training, but don't listen to, you know, Jenny McCarthy.
Sure.
We've got facts.
But what our side needs is a Playboy model and the parent of an autistic child.
Natasha? "A dozen large, well-structured studies in America and Europe show no link between autism and vaccines.
" Thank you, Natasha.
And now here's "Bullshit" writer Michael Goudeau and his autistic son, Joey.
That's right, Natasha.
Eyes forward, son.
Just do the research yourself, and know when that kid grows up, one day, you might have to answer to that adult, and why did you do this to me, Mommy? Why did you do this to me, Daddy? Why didn't you read the insert? Were you too lazy? Were you too busy texting someone? Were you too busy on your iPhone, text--talking or watching a movie while nurses are sticking needles in my legs.
What were you doing during that time? Why didn't you read the insert? It's right there, they give you the insert, they give you the information.
The problem is, is it's in, like, 10 pages and it's all this in the tiny little fine print.
You ever seen the insert to one of those things? You can't hardly read it.
And what is a 17, 18, 19 year old single mom gonna do? You know, she's in there with a bunch of sick kids.
She's in there for her regular scheduled.
It could be a clinic, you know, Medicaid, Medicare.
They require this stuff.
The public school requires these things.
And I'm have a feeling that eventually home schooled they are gonna come around and knock knock knock, "Uh, have your kids been vaccinated?" Ah, and then we bring up the health care issue.